Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teapot manufacturing: molding

There are two ways in making teapots.  One is molding and the other way is by shaping with a turning wheel.  In either case, each part: body, lid, spout and handle are made separately and they are joined together later.  There are many other works that are involved such as making a strainer, adjusting the fitting of the lid and body, and baking.  Molding can create the same designed teapots in large amount of production, and they are usually priced more reasonably than the ones created with the turning wheel.  However, I think that molding process deserves to be called handmade as well.  Each procedure is done by manual work and the same amount of effort is exerted for molded teapots and wheeled teapots.

This is an example of the mold.  They are for a tea cup.

A small hole to inject the clay

In ceramic molding, you pour liquid clay into the plaster mold. When the clay dries up, you take it out from the mold.  The mold consists of multiple pieces for you to open it, so it is possible to take the molded piece out.  There won’t be a problem for a simple shaped product like a tea cup.  However, it doesn’t work that way for a globular part like a teapot’s body.  Here is a quiz for you.  Can you guess how it make possible?  I’ll tell you the answer in the next entry.

For iron cast kettle, the inner mold is made up of sand or clay where you can disassemble the mold in pieces and take them out.  Try to picture unpuzzling a child's lego toy.  That easy.  You cannot use these steps for ceramics.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Treat from Kyoto

Pastel colors of the sweets look attractive, inviting and excellent for summer.  I got a small box of confectionaries from a friend of mine.  It is a souvenir from Kyoto.  They are so cute, aren’t they?  Not to mention, so irresistible

The rainy season is finally over and the sunshiny days have started here.  It’s going to be another very hot day today.  To enjoy the fresh breeze of morning, I used white porcelain wares and enjoyably prepared tea for myself.

The confectionary gleams by the light from the window.  When I touched it with the sweet pick, I could feel the soft but firm jelly, and it started splitting out when I added more pressure.  I could perfectly imagine how it breaks down, melts and spreads in my mouth.  The flavor was ratherly surprising!  The jelly had a clear sweetness only with no other flavor.  It was extremely mellow and filling my mouth.   It is just a cluster of pure sweetness.  Every now and then, a piece of chestnut added a delightful twist with the nutty honey note, and red bean’s earthy aroma pleased my palate.  The sweets from Kyoto brought a luxurious and cool moment for my usual summer day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Visiting a Potter Studio

One day, I took some tea bowl samples, some pictures and random designs that I drew, and visited an expert potter.   Now, I’m trying to have two types of original tea bowl made for my shop.  One will be a black tea bowl with apparent volume and another one will be light for its size with a bright glaze. 

You might think that a tea bowl is just a simple vessel but to create a tea bowl, you have to consider many aspects and details for its functionality and pleasing appearance.  The details will include clay, glaze, weight, dimensions, figures, and so on (depending on one’s tastes).  What I most consider is the entire atmosphere consisting of all these delicate aspects.

Checking the size before baking

After several meetings, the potter finally showed me the first sample of black tea bowl.  It is shaped by a turning wheel and is handsomely carved outside.  Engraved edges give the bowl a varied and expressive look.  I actually used the bowl yesterday and I liked it.  The black tea bowl beautifully steals attention in the tea room and perfectly matched a dark-wine-red tea container.  It was great moving tea whisk in it.  The craggy surface creates an interesting touch.  The skilled potter already made the first piece in perfect shape that meets all of my desires kind of tea bowl. 

The sample piece satisfies my taste, but I think something is missing here.  It’s the atmosphere.  It is very minor difference.  I wanted it to be massive, but the sample piece is very composed.   Now I realized that it was because I was concerned too much about the weight, and asked him not to make it too heavy.  So, he thinned the wall and reshaped the tea bowl.  Even though it appeared heavy, I would want it more wild and livery.  I can’t wait for the next piece. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Favorite breed

I got 10 tea samples of different breeds to study: 1Yutakamidori, 2Saemidori, 3Asatsuyu, 4Asanoka, 5Yabukita, 6Koshunn, 7Benifuki, 8Shizu7132, 9Kanayamidori, 10Okumidori. 

Comparing the different samples at the same will make it easier to find the differences.  However, 10 samples were kind of too many for me.  I got confused after tasting several kinds.  I think I need more experience on this, hahaha.  Anyway, it was very interesting.  Some teas have a distinctive aroma, and some teas are very mild.  I was kind of surprised to find out that Yabukita has relatively strong bitterness among the ten. 

My favorite one is Asatsuyu.  I simply find it tasty.  The most significant character of this tea is umami.  You find it right after you sip the tea and it beautifully lasts to the end.  The umami merges with other flavors and creates a rich body in the taste.  You can enjoy the umami changing into milder sweetness during the aftertaste.  This tea has more bitterness than Yutakamidori and Saemidori, but it’s not sharp at all, so I can still consider it mild. 

In the tasting, I used boiling water, so I prepared it again with lower temperature (leaf:2g, water:30ml/1oz, 65C/149F, 1min).  Using this method, I found out that it has a nutty sweet aroma.  The aroma will get me to have a good expectation.  With the first sip, I was sure that my assumption was correct.  The rich umami pleased me.  But, I feel something missing in the taste, so I still need to experiment for a better mixture.  Anyway, I like Asatuyu.  You try it and let me know your preference.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Breed of tea

“Yabukita”  Have you ever heard of that name?

There are many breeds of tea plant.  Each type has different characteristics.  Yabukita is the most popular breed of tea in Japan because of its excellent quality and really impressive yield.  Approximately 70-80% of tea fields in Japan produce Yabukita.

Do you ever consider the breeds when buying your green tea?  I honestly think that most people do not.  The tea sold in stores is usually blended with some different kinds of tea.  Blending helps supply excellent quality and stable taste of tea.  A single-breed tea is not a mainstream in the market.  The breeds are not mentioned on the package of most tea, so your chances of distinguishing or knowing the breed of tea are quite low.

The trend for Yabukita and the loss of uniqueness (due to the blending of one type with another) may encourage the demand for variety and distinctiveness.   I believe paying attention to the details on the breeds is given much importance by tea lovers these days.  It will be interesting to try the tea that is not perfect but unique.

I got some samples of different breeds to study them.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gyokuro brewing experiment

As I mentioned in the last entry, I’m looking for a new brewing recipe.  I want a milder flavor compared to the current recipe that I have, and the combinations that I could think of are the following: “A” and “B”.

A: Less leaf, More water
B: Higher temp., Shorter time
C: ?
3g / 0.11oz
3g / 0.11oz
30ml / 1.1oz
30ml / 1.1oz
45C / 113F
55C / 131F

“B” has a slightly more bitterness in the aftertaste than “A”.  However, they basically have a similar flavor, and they are a little weaker than I expected.  Based upon the results, I decided the third mixture, “C”.

3g / 0.01oz
3g / 0.11oz
4g / 0.14oz
30ml / 1.1oz
30ml / 1.1oz
30ml / 1.1oz
45C /113F
55C / 131F
40C / 104F

I got a much better result with “C”.  It has more impressed and distinct flavor with good umami and it also has a smooth taste.  However, I honestly think that something is still missing, and I know that I can improve it more.  Today, I had too much tea and can’t pursue farther tests.  I want to try it next time.  Nevertheless, so far “C” has provided me great satisfaction and is pleasing to my palate.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The ranges of gyokuro-preparing conditions

If you look for a way to prepare gyokuro on books or on the internet, you will realize that there is a wide range of brewing conditions among the sources. 

The ranges
Leaf:                   2.5-5g  (0.088-0.176oz)
Water:                20-40ml  (0.7-1.4oz)
Temperature:      40-60C  (104-140F)
Time:                  1.5-3min

In gyokuro brewing, you might have experienced that a slight difference in the conditions will make a big difference to the taste.  You can think of infinite combinations within the ranges.  Have you figured out what’s best for your?   I love flavorful gyokuro, so I prepare it with plenty of leaves and a little water in a low temperature.  It is something like the following.

Leaf:  4g  (0.14oz)
Water: 25ml  (0.88oz)
Temp: 45C  (113F)
Time:  2min

However, I’m interested in other ways since I tried a smooth gyokuro at Gyokuro-no-sato (http://everyonestea.blogspot.jp/2012/05/importance-of-brewing-conditions.html)  I’ll do some experiments to find out the way to brew that type of tea that I’ve tried there.  I’ll introduce about it on the next entry.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My experience with tea comic

On my video recorder, I can register some keywords that I’m interested in.  It automatically records the TV programs related to the keywords.  Of course, I’ve registered the keyword chanoyu, or The Way of Tea.  In the recorded shows, there is an anime every week.  I’m not an anime or comic enthusiast, so I’ve always deleted the show.  However, I sometimes check it a little before deleting.  It is a story about ancient tea masters.  It slowly drew my attention.

I found out that the anime is based on comic books.  I’m not sure if it is common worldwide, but in Japan you can rent comics.  I have rented the original comics.  It is entitled Hyoge Mono.  The comic is regarded as fiction but its outline is still based on the actual history.  The story is about one of the Rikyu’s disciples, Oribe Furuta. 

Oribe was a samurai warrior and also a tea master.  The episodes tell how he lived in the warring States period.  Expensive utensils were even used as a gift in war negotiations.  While tea people sought the beauty in tea, greed, conspiracies and selfish ambitions were involved.  That is the interesting part.  You will find Oribe’s humorous and distinctive character in the course of flourishing his way of tea.

This is the face when Oribe found out that Rikyu was using a cracked lid on the tea container.  He was glad to know that his idea was not wrong and Rikyu has the same aesthetic sense. 

NHK  Hyouge Mono >>>  http://www9.nhk.or.jp/anime/hyouge/